United nations/THE HAGUE – UN war crimes judges on Thursday found former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic guilty of genocide and sentenced him to 40 years in jail over the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.
The court said Karadzic, the most high-profile figure convicted over the wars that tore Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s, bore criminal responsibility for murder and persecution in the Bosnian conflict.
Judge O-Gon Kwon said the court in The Hague found Karadzic guilty of genocide for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and nine other charges of murder, persecution, and hostage-taking.
But in what will be a blow to thousands of victims, the court said it did not have enough evidence to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that genocide had been committed in seven Bosnian towns and villages over two decades ago.
It marks the end of a marathon trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for Karadzic’s role during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war that claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced 2.
2 million others.
The 70-year-old listened stony-faced as Kwon said it was clear Karadzic bore “individual criminal responsibility” for murder, persecution as well as the hostage-taking of UN peacekeepers.
Karadzic “was at the apex of political, governmental and military structures” of the Bosnian Serb leadership and “at the forefront of developing and promoting its ideologies,” Kwon said.
“I hope this court will fulful its mission and put this man behind bars.
Our children are dead,” Munira Subasic, from the Mother’s of Srebrenica, told AFP before the verdict.
“I hope finally the lies that have been told in Bosnia will be exposed,” she added.
Karadzic, 70, is the highest-profile politician from the Balkans conflicts to be judged, after former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic died in his prison cell while on trial in 2006.
UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein hailed the verdict as “hugely significant”.
Moreover, calling today ‘historic’ for the people of former Yugoslavia and for international criminal justice, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed support for the victims who suffered under former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžic, following his guilty verdict by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
‘Fugitives cannot outrun the international community’s collective resolve to make sure that they face justice according to the law,’ the secretary-general said through his spokesperson.
In a separate statement, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, welcomed the verdict calling it ‘hugely significant.
’ ‘His judgment is symbolically powerful – above all for the victims of the crimes committed during the wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina and across the former Yugoslavia, but also for victims across the world,’ Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement from his Office (OHCHR).
Zeid added that while the verdict might be appealed, it shows ‘no matter how powerful they are, no matter how untouchable they imagine themselves to be, no matter what continent they inhabit, the perpetrators of such crimes must know that they will not escape justice.
Karadžic, who had been the President of the self-styled Bosnian Serb Republic, was convicted of genocide in the area of Srebrenica in 1995, of persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts (forcible transfer), terror, unlawful attacks on civilians and hostage-taking.
The ICTY acquitted him of the charge of genocide in other municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992.
Zeid has a personal connection to the trial, having served in the UN Protection Force in the Former Yugoslavia between1994 and 1996.
In his statement, Zeid said the verdict stripped away the pretence that Mr.
Karadžics actions were anything more than political manipulation, and exposes him as ‘the architect of destruction and murder on a massive scale.
’ ‘It is time now to ensure that his poisonous legacy does not continue to burden the people of the former Yugoslavia with deeply-felt grievances, secrecy and lies,’ he stressed.
He added that the trial should give pause to leader in Europe and elsewhere who seek to exploit nationalist sentiments and scapegoat minorities for broader social ills.
‘Speech that incites hatred, discrimination and violence is an inflammable force,’ he said.
‘In the countries of the former Yugoslavia, we saw the terrible bloodshed that can result.
’ Following the announcement of the verdict, ICTY Prosecutor Serge Brammertz said: For two decades now, the victims have put their trust in us to deliver [justice].
Thousands came here to tell their stories and courageously confront their tormentors.
Today, with this conviction, that trust has been honoured.
Justice has been done.
He went on to stress that the truth established by this judgment will stand against continuing attempts at denying the suffering of thousands and the crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia.
‘Moments like this should also remind us that in innumerable conflicts around the world today, millions of victims are now waiting for their own justice.
This judgment shows that it is possible to deliver it,’ he said. special correspondent/AFP